HBO has dropped "Commandante," Oliver Stone's documentary about Fidel Castro, from its May lineup.
"In light of recent alarming events in Cuba, HBO decided not to air Oliver Stone's film in May as scheduled," a network spokeswoman told The TV Column.
The reference is to Castro's firing-squad execution of three men who hijacked a ferry in Havana Bay on April 2 and set sail for the United States with about 50 hostages. The ferry ran out of fuel and was towed back to Cuba.
Their execution coincided with a crackdown on dissidents that included four men receiving life sentences and four other alleged hijackers getting from two to 30 years in prison.
Stone said in February that he hoped his documentary would create a more balanced view of the Cuban leader. For the movie, he followed Castro over three days in 2002.
Even before last week's executions, Stone's documentary was controversial. During the Sundance Film Festival, the director said he found Castro to be "warm and bright," adding, "he's a very driven man, a very moral man. He's very concerned about his country. He's selfless in that way."
In its coverage of "Commandante," Salon.com wrote that Stone "profiles his new friend Fidel Castro -- and proceeds to whitewash the Cuban despot's brutal reign." Film critic Roger Ebert suggested, "If Stone asks the wrong questions, well, then, this could be a documentary showing how Castro's charm seduced the famous U.S. director."
The HBO rep acknowledged yesterday that the film appears "somewhat incomplete" in light of current events.
"We know it's pretty horrendous. What's important in Cuba today was not important in Cuba in February 2002," when Stone filmed the documentary, she said.
The rep said Stone may return to Cuba and interview Castro about the executions. The documentary could still turn up on HBO with the additional footage.
Viacom-owned cable network TNN is changing its name. Again.
TNN was founded as The Nashville Network in 1983, switched to The National Network in 2000 and will be renamed Spike TV in June.
Network President Albie Hecht explained in a phone news conference that Spike is a "guy's name." (TNN in January was re-branded as "the first network for men.")
The name Spike "has a personality. It's smart, sexy. It's unapologetically male," Hecht told The Reporters of Both Sexes Who Cover Television, including The Post's John Maynard, during Tuesday's phone call.
Plus, he said, "it's active, it's sporty. It's got a contemporary feel to it. It's aggressive and irreverent. And those are all the qualities we really want for the first network for men."
Hecht, who replaced Diana Robina -- a non-guy -- as network president in January when Viacom decided to repackage TNN as "guys only," is concerned that women have Lifetime, WE: Women's Entertainment and Oxygen, but male viewers have nada. Nothing. Zilch.
Hecht acknowledged that guys have "things for sports" -- like ESPN -- or comedy, or history, or news. But there is no place where "guys can come and it can be their home base." That is so sad.
Oh, and Hecht thinks the name change can help reverse the network's sagging ratings; TNN's audience flagged 16 percent -- down from 1.2 million to 1 million viewers -- in prime time in the first quarter of 2003 compared with the same quarter of '02.
"Hopefully, [Spike TV] will produce a spike in the ratings," Hecht said.
Get it? Hahahaha.
Over the next year, Spike TV will add to its guy lineup of "CSI" repeats and WWE wrestling such shows as "Ride With Funkmaster Flex," in which male celebrities show off souped-up vehicles; "Crash Test," which seeks to find the ultimate guy party crashers; and "The Scene," following guy entrepreneurs.
The TNN renaming comes on the heels of Fox's announcement that it is going to call its guy-targeting extreme sports network "Fuel." Are men not capable of remembering polysyllabic network names?
Black and white households have more top-20 programs in common than at any time in at least a decade, according to a new study on African American television-viewing trends.
During the fourth quarter of 2002, nine programs were among the 20 most popular for both groups, compared with seven a year before.
Last fall also saw a significant increase in the number of multiethnic ensemble series on network TV, according to the report from media buying firm Initiative Media. The 51 such shows last year represent a 292 percent increase since 1995, when there were 13.
Five years ago, 14 of the top 20 shows among black viewers ranked below 100th place among whites. With the introduction of more multiethnic ensembles, Initiative Media reported, that number has been halved.
The No. 1-ranked program among African American households last fall was Fox's "Cedric the Entertainer"; among white households it was CBS's "CSI," which ranked No. 10 in black homes.
Black and white viewers alike placed in their respective top-20 lists NBC's "ER," "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: SVU"; ABC's "Monday Night Football"; and CBS's "CSI: Miami," "Judging Amy," "Without a Trace" and "60 Minutes."
More sports anchor shuffling at WUSA.
Boston anchor-reporter Levan Reid has been signed to become Channel 9's weekend sports anchor. The news was announced to staff in a brief memo from management.
Reid, who has worked at Fox's WFXT in Boston for seven years, joins WUSA in June.
No mention was made in the memo of Steve Davis, whom WUSA hired as the Next Big Thing in July. He was relieved of the plum 5, 6 and 11 p.m. weekday sports anchor crown about a month ago and sent off to do weekend sports anchoring.
A call to Channel 9 News Director Dave Roberts yielded a "no comment."
Andrea Roane, who has been with the station since 1981, and J.C. Hayward, who celebrated 30 years at the station in 2002, both have signed five-year contracts at the Gannett-owned station.
Roane co-anchors the early morning newscasts; Hayward does noon and 5 p.m.
"I've just signed a no-cut five-year contract . . .," a delighted Hayward told The TV Column. "If they fire you they still have to pay you."
Some people have all the luck.